A former prolific offender who stole from homes and vehicles across South Devon has joined forces with Devon and Cornwall Police to help prevent people from being a victim this Christmas.
The 36-year-old racked up 324 offences for burglary and vehicle crime but has now turned his life around and is helping police get the message across that ‘Not everyone is welcome this Christmas’.
The reformed character, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “It was easy for me to steal when people left their doors or windows open.
“Criminals look for anything clearly visible, such as money, car keys, wallets, purses, laptops and mp3 players.
“When there is a door or window left open, a criminal will look to see what is inside that can benefit them. I always looked for the little things that could easily be put into a plastic bag so no one would notice when I was walking away.”
He now supports the police Christmas theft campaign and hopes that his advice, from the horse’s mouth, will encourage homeowners to think more about securing their homes, vehicles and possessions in order to help prevent them from becoming a target.
He also hopes that young people who are thinking of turning to crime will hear his story and nip their criminality in the bud.
In tandem with the Force Christmas theft campaign, officers in South Devon have launched Operation Reindeer as a proactive means of tackling burglaries during the festive season.
Detective Inspector Chris Yarwood, who is involved in Operation Reindeer, said: “We are really pleased that this offender has turned a corner in his life and is now trying to help people prevent themselves from becoming a victim of burglary.
“We have been carrying out a high visibility campaign and distributing burglary packs with advice and UV pens to many residents in this area.
“The biggest problem we are facing is that we are still discovering that 40% of all burglaries are down to insecurities. The frustrating thing about this is that these crimes, which can have a particularly devastating effect on people, could be prevented so easily by homeowners closing and locking doors and windows.
“Christmas is a time of year when everyone knows that homes have presents stored in them and so all gifts and expensive items should be hidden from external view at all times.
“To have all your presents stolen just before Christmas or just after is traumatic, so please help prevent yourself from becoming a victim and spend a few minutes checking that your home is secure, even if you are in the back garden. It can save a lot of heartache.”
Ex-offender’s case study
The offender is 36 and lives in Paignton, Devon.
He has committed crime in the Torbay and South Hams areas.
He would to walk into people’s homes where a door had been left open and look for car keys to steal. He would also smash car windows with a screw driver to snatch handbags or valuable items left on display inside.
He had a troubled upbringing on a deprived council estate in Manchester and started getting into trouble by joy riding. He was put into care and spent years in several children’s’ homes from the age of 10.
He has committed 324 offences for burglary and vehicle crime, been in prison more than 10 times and sentenced to around 17 years in total.
He was last in trouble around two years ago for stealing a car. He was remanded for six weeks and given a DRR (drug rehabilitation requirement.) He got clean and passed it.
He has turned his life around; coming off drugs and getting two of his children back (aged 2 and 4) with his partner. He has another child aged 14.
He is a qualified chef and has been doing voluntary work for a charity.
He wants to help younger people like himself before they start a life of crime and tell people how to avoid being targeted by thieves.